This post title comes from wise words uttered by a former supervisor. Today's post has to do with a bit of a literal spin on the phrase.
Somehow I got on an email list of a church organization. The other day one of their distributions landed in my mailbox with the following list as its focus. It put me in mind of an article in the NY Times several months ago about how the perspective of many in the pews about what church is about is different from its intended purpose, and how demanding some pew-sitters can be about how clergy ought to do their jobs. The italics below is my response to the pew-sitter's "wish." Take with a grain of salt my sarcasm, which laces the truth.
10 Wishes from a Pew Sitter
At the start of a new year, as a pew-sitter, I have a few wishes for the church leaders I know and love:
- Banish the "stand and greet your neighbor" time in the worship service. I know your intentions are good, but it's forced, fruitless and goofy. This is known as the passing of the peace, an ancient practice shared by early Christians to express the love of Christ among them. Good intentions have nothing to do with this "forced, fruitless and goofy" ritual. It's an incarnational expression of love.
- Forget everything they taught you about three-point sermons. You're wildly successful if you can get across one point. Just one point. Then sit down.
- Get out and spend time with real people. Schedule lunches at your members' workplaces and schools. Listen. Get a feel for how real people live. I'm sorry, I didn't realize that clergy weren't real people. We put our pants on one leg at a time, just like you (assuming that you are a real person). We have hopes, dreams, disappointments and heartbreaks. People annoy us. We have bills to pay, grocery lists to make, and oil to change in our cars. The only thing that makes us different from "real people" is our job description. And I've got news for you. Your job description is just as different.
- Encourage regular evaluation. Use comment cards. Ask us what we remember from last week's sermon. Then take us seriously, and adjust. I am happy to do this. Feedback is a helpful thing when it's constructive, and if my preaching isn't reaching you, I'd like to know that. Are you ready to receive the same, take it seriously, and adjust?
- Crank down the volume of the band. Allow us to actually hear the voices of the flock. I'm not really into the band.
- Burn the fill-in-the-blank sermon guides. They're insulting, distracting and ineffective. (Can you imagine Jesus using them? Let's see, "Feed my _______.") No comment.
- Show hospitality. Encourage people to enjoy a cup of coffee-during the service. Church is not a coffee house. If you want coffee during church, stay home and watch it on TV. I think you mean, during the service, encourage people to enjoy a cup of coffee after the service. If you're not getting that invitation at your place, come to mine.
- Let us participate. Entertain our questions-during the service. Let the real people around us tell how God is working in their lives. There you go again with the "real people" taunt. Church is not a 12-step program, it's a time to praise God. I'm all for sharing testimony. When can I schedule you to preach?
- Relax. Make some real friends. Spend more time with your family. Don't schedule every evening with church meetings. You need to expand your vocabulary. I'm sure you didn't mean to suggest that my relationships are shallow and meaningless. But I'll second this motion when it comes to having time away from the responsibilities and stresses of work. There's something you need to know, however: surgeries, deaths, and crises don't happen within nine-to-five schedules. Your need to call to discuss how to handle a difficult personality on your committee interrupted the time I was spending with my child helping her with her homework. Apparently calling you back was not an option, because you were going to be helping your son with his homework.
- Get rid of the pews. Really. This one is negotiable. As long as the chairs you have in mind don't have those really low and uncomfortable backs.